Review: the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake

Ah, Gormenghast. Hailed as one of the classics of Fantasy, I just had to read this trilogy. The Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake consists of:

  • Titus Groan
  • Gormenghast
  • Titus Alone


The Gormenghast trilogy deals with the lives and deaths of the people of the great castle of Gormenghast. The first book starts with the birth of Titus Groan, the seventy-seventh Earl of Groan, son of Lord Sepulchrave, the seventy-sixth Earl of Groan and the Countess Gertrude, younger brother of Fuchsia. This event shakes the foundation of Gormenghast, and none of the lives of those who live within – and outside – those walls will ever be the same.


The prose in these books is absolutely beautiful! And though it took me a long time (early January to mid March) to get through these books, I’m not under any impression it had anything to do with the language or what happened in the books. In fact, I don’t know why it was so hard for me to get through these books. I don’t mind slow pacing/a slow burn, and in this instance it worked so well, because of the simmering tension. Maybe I just wasn’t in a reading mood.

I have to admit I liked the first two books better than Titus Alone. Titus Groan and Gormenghast both felt more like a contained story, while Titus Alone, to me, felt like a collection of snippets. Too many things happened seemingly at random, and the ending left me….unsatisfied. The other two also contained many more Gormenghast/Dweller characters, who to me were the more interesting parties. Except for Muzzlehatch, he was really interesting.

But the other two books featured Flay, Sourdust, Swelter, Fuchsia, Gertrude, Sepulchrave, the twin aunts, Doctor Prunesquallor and his sister, Nanny Slagg, Keda, the Thing, Bellgrove and the other teachers, the Dwellers, and that darned Steerpike with his head full of plans. Imaginative Fuchsia was definitely my favourite.

Perhaps the change to a much more modern and less interesting setting in the third book is what made me like it less than the other two? The same thing happened with Avatar: The Last Airbender which I loved, and Legend of Korra, which left me kind of meh.

The good (book 1-2) outweighed the less good (book 3); that’s why I eventually went with the rating I gave it.




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